Jan 3, 2015

Cookbooks to Inspire in 2015

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cookbook stack

Happy New Year, darling readers! I hope your holiday season wrapped up with a bang, whatever that means to you. Over the years, ringing in the New Year right has meant a variety of scenarios around here, everything from couching it with yoga pants, cookies, and Champers, to the sort of crazy, whoop-filled party that requires a sequined somesuch and trying in vain to hail taxis (admittedly, it’s been a while since I’ve experienced the latter). This time around, though, we struck a nice balance with a lively nearby party thrown by new friends, and as every person there had wacky little kids, the festivities were designed to ring in 2015 on east coast time. Which, in a glorious turn of events, meant I was back at home, full of good cheer, in my pajamas and both kids in bed by 9:30 p.m. PST. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. How has this not always been our thing? I think I’ll be celebrating on New Year’s Eve like this for the rest of my days. So great.

Now that we’re solidly settling into 2015, anyone with an internet connection and half an ear tuned into the rest of the universe can’t escape all the talk of turning over a new leaf. Is it just me, or does it seem like all the chatter about resolutions is particularly intense this year? Hmmm. I wonder what that’s all about. Anyway, although I am all for using a brand new year as an excellent excuse to attack life goals and start fresh, I’m also excited to bring some bits and pieces of 2014 with me for inspiration.

So many websites love to do a year-end round-up of the best fall cookbooks sometime in December, and while that makes perfect (possibly better) sense, I often find that it’s not until January that I can actually take a breath and page through all the beauties that collected on my desk throughout the previous season. Since we’ll be in a bit of a cookbook releasing lull for the time being (which picks back up right about the time my third cookbook Real Sweet hits shelves, what whaaaatttt #shameless), these are the still-new-to-me books that I’ll be hitting up for fresh ideas throughout 2015.

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The Little Paris Kitchen and The Little French Kitchen by Rachel Khoo. 2014 was the Year of Rachel Khoo in this house. I wish there were more than just a handful of episodes of her glorious “Kitchen Notebook” series, because I managed to get Caroline hooked on it, too, and if you know anything about six-year-olds and their viewing habits of shows they like, then you know that we’ve seen every episode at least 15 times. (She does a spot-on Rachel Khoo impersonation and everything. Normal?) But in this case I don’t mind the binge watching–Rachel’s worldly single girl/colorful vintage/slightly quirky but whip-smart style is kind of like Anthropologie in British woman form. For me, that never gets old. And her recipes and the styling of her books reflect that brand perfectly. These are the kinds of books that transport you. Alternately page-flipping, sighing, and quiet latte-sipping finery of the highest order.

love bake nourish cover

Love Bake Nourish by Amber Rose. Speaking of disappearing into cookbooks, this one has the sort of softly lit, feminine air that practically has you inhaling food-grade lavender as you turn the pages. I saw a PDF of this book before its U.S. release and begged like a crazy person for a copy (I’m kind of bananas for Kyle Books in general–so much goodness!). The refined flours and sugars here are kept to a minimum, fruit is celebrated, and the flavor combinations are jaw-droppingly terrific. (I took a break from obsessing over my own manuscript to try the pear and cardamom tarte tatin several months back, and it was a revelation.) Add to that a healthy obsession with meringue throughout, and you have a book I will never, ever grow tired of looking through. Perfectly balanced baking for a new year.

Trashy sidebar: It’s important to note that the Amber Rose who authored this book is a British baking superstar who’s whipped up goodies for London’s most fabulous set (think Kate Moss, Sadie Frost, Gwyneth, and other people whose Boho-chic, magazine-page lives I covet), and not the booty-popping rapper’s delight (although if that Amber Rose wrote a cookbook, I would likely have to check it out, because let’s face it, I love that kind of madness).

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What to Bake and How to Bake It by Jane Hornby. My last post of the year featured the stollen recipe from this lovely tome, and I simply can’t stop flipping through it and blabbing about it every chance I get. I’ve been especially obsessed with British cookbook authors this year. I might have a problem. Anyway, this is the kind of general baking book that is so well-edited that it truly is a go-to for year-round baking. When you just feel like some straightforward comfort baking but don’t know exactly what you want to make, this is the book to have on your shelf. (I’ll be picking up Hornby’s previous savory–or is it savoury?–titles next.)

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Joy the Baker Homemade Decadence by Joy Wilson. In the opposite category are books like this one, that don’t cater to simplicity. That’s not to say that the recipes aren’t easy here–many of them are–but the idea of this book is to add complexity to baked goods with a variety of interesting flavor combinations and to add a bit of a twist on things you might’ve made before. (The Buttermilk Pie Crust killed it with my fall and holiday pies this year.) The thing I love most about this book, though, it how authentically “Joy” it is. The girl’s soul is on every page. Filling a book with so many lush photos and a consistent, unique writing voice is no easy task, and if you’re a fan of the Joy the Baker blog (who isn’t?), you’ll get more of what you already love in this fun book. It will get you jazzed to bake, no doubt.

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Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich. If anyone is going to make the somewhat hippie world of alternative flours interesting, it’s going to be Dame Alice. I remember first hearing about this book in the early stages of writing Real Sweet, and thinking that it was an omen that someone I admire so much was going to do for flours what I was hoping to do for natural sugars and sweeteners. Many of the recipes here happen to be gluten-free, but the emphasis is really on the extraordinary variety of flavors and textures that you can discover when you play with non-wheat flours. And if you’re a true baking geek (represent!), you’ll be especially excited about the bits that give you a glimpse into how a baking legend meticulously tests her recipes.

carrie vitt cover

The Grain-Free Family Table by Carrie Vitt. Let’s get one thing straight right now: I’m not a practicing grain-free eater. I am thankful to not have any health situations that would cause me to need to live a grain-free life. But like so many people, I know that cutting back on grains from time to time makes a world of difference in how I feel, and makes me feel a whole lot better about indulging my need for dessert. The older and wiser I get, the more I realize that balance is key. Cream cheese-frosted carrot cake on subsequent days? Glorious, super. Why not? Life’s short, people. But let’s find some creative ways to clean up the surrounding meals and snacks to make that cake break extra awesome. That’s my motto.

And that’s where a book like Carrie’s comes in for someone like me: a person who will luckily never know the struggle with the kinds of diseases or allergies that make grain-free eating essential for survival, but rather sees a book like this as a resource for creative, clean-eating solutions that fit into a balanced life. I’ve loved her and her blog for ages. And by the way, her grain-free carrot cake with cream cheese frosting recipe is INSANE. Elevating the cake break, even! Win-win, right there.

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Camille Styles Entertaining by Camille Styles. Equal parts coffee table book, cookbook, and general fabulous life inspo, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of my girl Camille’s first title. Her blog has long been a go-to for entertaining and lifestyle gospel, and it’s always wonderful to see that kind of well-cultivated brand translate so well in printed form. As much as I love to bake and feed the results to people I love on the regular, between babies and deadlines and a perfectionist streak that doesn’t like to let friends past the threshold of a messy house, my entertaining game has been way off in the past couple years. Although I hesitate to say I “resolve” anything in the New Year, I would certainly love to make more of an effort to open our door for some fun, casual get-togethers in 2015. Camille’s book makes me crave that, and puts it all within reach, which is a New Year miracle in itself.

What cookbooks will you be gleaning inspiration from throughout this brand new year? Do tell!

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